Sunday, June 8
9:00 PM ET
TD BankNorth Garden
The Celtics kicked off their first NBA Finals appearance since 1987 in style, winning an eventful grind-out game on their home floor, 98-88. Boston fans were hit with a scare mid-third quarter, when Paul Pierce fell to the ground grimacing in pain, but the Celtics captain was not about to let his first Finals outing end that way. Just minutes after being wheeled to the locker room, "The Truth" gingerly skipped back onto the floor and brought the crowd to its feet while sending a resounding aura of relief throughout The Garden. Moments later, number 34 assured his wellbeing with back-to-back three-point bombs to lift the moment to its furthest extremes.
From the instant Pierce went down, the Celtics buckled down to their typical lock-down defensive ways for the remainder of the game. Mix that in with a little extra effort and Kevin Garnett facial (delivered to Pau Gasol, respectively), and you’ve got yourself a victory.
With all of that said, the C’s did not play up to their capabilities for the game’s 48-minute entirety. The defensive product that they put on display throughout the bulk of the first half was discouraging, most notably in pick n’ roll situations. At the end of the day, a victory is all that matters in the NBA Finals, but the Celtics dodged a bullet on Thursday night. The Lakers did not play as well as they would’ve liked, either. Kobe Bryant shot just 9-26 from the field (which was, of course, partially a product of Boston’s defense), and got little help from his teammates throughout the final two frames of the ballgame. While the Celtics did indeed play remarkable defense in the second half, it is farfetched to expect a similar offensive output from Los Angeles two games in a row.
A Game 2 victory is crucial for the Celtics to obtain, as the following three games will be played at the Staples Center, where the Lakers have not lost a game since March 28. Anything is possible on the road, as we’ve learned this postseason. Get your popcorn ready for a dogfight, folks.
C Pau Gasol / Kendrick Perkins
PF Lamar Odom / Kevin Garnett
SF Vladimir Radmanovic / Paul Pierce
SG Kobe Bryant / Ray Allen
PG Derek Fisher / Rajon Rondo
Key Matchup: Kobe Bryant vs. Ray Allen
Ray Allen deserves a lot of credit for Kobe Bryant’s Game 1 struggles. He did a terrific job of sticking with him, cutting him off, and putting a hand in his face even on some of Bryant’s ridiculous fall-away jumpers (which he likes to refer to as "bunnies," but we won’t go there). It’s tough to imagine Kobe Bryant putting together back-to-back shooting displays of the 9-for-26 nature in the NBA Finals; Allen is going to have to match, if not exceed, his efforts from Thursday night.
Celtics X-Factor: Sense of Urgency
This is where the Celtics want to be, but the goal is not to be happy about being here. The goal is to win. As Doc Rivers put it shortly after the Celtics won the Eastern Conference, "we don’t want the silver ball, we want the gold ball." In the NBA Finals, there is no room for broken plays, missed assignments, or fatigue. It’s all or nothing time. Go get ‘em, green.
LAL – Andrew Bynum (recovering from left knee surgery – out)
BOS – Paul Pierce (sprained right knee – probable)
BOS – Kendrick Perkins (sprained left ankle – probable)
BOS – Scot Pollard (torn tendon in left ankle – out for season)
Celtics Keys to the Game
- Sense of Urgency
- Defensive Rotations
- Pick n’ Roll Coverage
- Ball Movement
- Bench Play